Utah's Republican senators are joining President Bush - and a host of others - in a renewed call for a constitutional amendment to prohibit burning the American flag.
But civil rights activists are saying that such an amendment would desecrate the Constitution and endanger freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch was among several lawmakers who gave blistering speeches on the Senate floor Monday after the Supreme Court struck down a law that Congress passed last year to ban flag burning.
And, as expected, reaction around the country was varied and adamant.
Amendment is a must
-President Bush: "I've not in any way pulled back from my conviction that (a constitutional amendment) is what we need. I will continue to press for what I strongly believe is in the best interest of this country."
-Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah: "Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Similarly, some members of Congress fiddled around ineffectively while the flag burned.
"This unmitigated fiasco, whereby Old Glory remains no closer to being protected . . . is the direct result of the political strategy of some congressional Democrats.
"Congress has attempted to protect the flag the Democrats' way. Now let us try something that works. . . . The flag burns yet - utterly unprotected from every crank who wants to desecrate her."
-Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah: "I will defend anybody's right to say anything they want, anyplace, anytime. But I am convinced that this new invention of symbolic speech - which builds shacks on the mall near the U.S. Capitol or burns flags on the steps of the Supreme Court - is not what the founding fathers had in mind when they crafted our First Amendment."
-Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah: "I respect the ideal that free speech cannot be abridged in the Constitution. At this time, I therefore support a constitutional amendment to protect the flag."
-Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah: I think the push for a Constitutional amendment, will come to a vote. I will vote for it. I want to protect the flag whatever it takes.
-Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., who as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee led the Senate fight for the law, said he disagreed with the decision but, "Now we are left with no other option but a constitutional amendment."
The challenge, Biden said, will be "to determine how best to fashion an amendment that doesn't do violence to the Constitution's First Amendment."
Don't tamper with Constitution
-Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah: Aide Art Kingdom said Owens "wants to see any proposed amendments before taking a stand, but he's sincere about not toying with the First Amendment right of free speech.
-Sen. George Mitchell, D-Maine: "The question before us is whether or not after 200 years, the American Bill of Rights - the most concise, the most eloquent, the most effective statement of individual liberty in all of human history - is to be changed."
-Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., called the request for Senate action this week "the fast-food school of constitutional amendments."
-Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe: "It would desecrate the Constitution to carve out an exception to the First Amendment, and I hope the House and Senate resist that temptation."
A constitutional amendment must be approved by two-thirds votes in both the House and Senate, then go to the state legislatures for ratification. At least three-fourths of the states - 38 - must approve any change in the Constitution.